On to Z! Quirky Regional Dictionary Nears Finish – NYTimes.com

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — If you don’t know a stone toter from Adam’s off ox, or aren’t sure what a grinder shop sells, the Dictionary of American Regional English is for you.

The collection of regional words and phrases is beloved by linguists and authors and used as a reference in professions as diverse as acting and police work. And now, after five decades of wide-ranging research that sometimes got word-gatherers run out of suspicious small towns, the job is almost finished.

The dictionary team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is nearing completion of the final volume, covering ”S” to ”Z.” A new federal grant will help the volume get published next year, joining the first four volumes already in print.

”It will be a huge milestone,” said editor Joan Houston Hall.

The dictionary chronicles words and phrases used in distinct regions. Maps show where a submarine sandwich might be called a hero or grinder, or where a potluck — as in a potluck dinner or supper — might be called a pitch-in (Indiana) or a scramble (northern Illinois).

It’s how Americans do talk, not how they should talk.

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